Cornwall urges visitors to stay away after becoming a Covid hotspot

South-west county has England's highest rate of new coronavirus cases as tourists come flocking

Holidaymakers on Fistral Beach in Newquay, Cornwall. Getty
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Cornwall is urging visitors to stay away as it deals with a surge in Covid-19 cases linked to crowded beaches and a lack of social distancing.

Tourists flocked to some popular parts of the county, such as Newquay for the Boardmasters music and surfing festival, which the mayor now says created a “perfect storm” for spreading coronavirus.

Since the lockdown in England was lifted, Cornwall, always a popular destination for domestic holidaymakers, has become attractive to people who cannot travel abroad.

The south-west English county’s economy is built on agriculture and tourism, and during lockdown many hotels, restaurants and other related areas struggled.

Now, Cornwall has the highest rate of new Covid-19 cases and tourist leaders are asking people to visit only if they have booked accommodation.

“We are asking people not to come unless they have booked ahead and request they take a lateral flow test before, during and after [their] stay so that [people] can be safe and help us to manage the current spike,” Malcolm Bell, chief executive of Visit Cornwall, said.

A bed and breakfast displays a No Vacancies sign – an indication of the area's increasing popularity as lockdown orders were lifted. Getty Images

He also asked people to stay away from the county’s best-known beaches and seek out less popular spots.

“There is concern and most local residents will be happier in a week or so, when the peak season is over and an older demographic visits as there are too many occurrences of overcrowding in honeypots,” he said.

“We are asking visitors to look at visiting other parts of Cornwall. We have over 300 beaches and lovely parts that can cope with visitors.”

Health officials said they are investigating 4,700 Covid infections linked to the Boardmasters festival, which took place from August 11-15 in Newquay.

The cases are spread across the country but around 800 people with the virus are living in Cornwall, a council official said.

A DJ performs during the Boardmasters festival in Newquay, England. Getty Images

“We’re seeing a spike in Cornwall because we’ve got the highest number of visitors we’ve ever had,” Newquay mayor and businessman Louis Gardner said.

“Our accommodation is at 100 per cent capacity, our hospitality venues are full, there’s no social distance in place, but I think those factors added in all together are having an effect.

“It’s a perfect storm.”

A representative for Boardmasters said the festival used the NHS Covid Pass app as a condition of entry and urged people to show proof of a negative test before entering.

“No event is able to eliminate risk entirely and the latest Test & Trace data includes reported infections among the 76,000 people who visited the festival or related activities at Fistral Beach, in Newquay, and the wider area during the week of Boardmasters,” they said.

“We will continue to work with our public health partners to understand the extent to which attendance at the festival has contributed to the figures.”

Holidaymakers without social distancing in Newquay. Getty

Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly now has the highest rate of Covid-19 cases in England, the data from Public Health England shows.

There were 4,430 new cases recorded across the area in the seven days to August 20 – the equivalent of 769.7 cases per 100,000 people.

This is up sharply from 384 per 100,000 in the previous seven days.

The top five local authority case rates in England are all in the south-west, with Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly followed by Sedgemoor in Somerset (724.2 cases per 100,000 people), West Devon (680.5), Teignbridge in Devon (659.8) and Torbay, also in Devon (651.9).

Updated: August 25, 2021, 12:27 PM